Trader Joe’s coming to The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch in Carmel Valley

By Karen Billing

Trader Joe’s is now coming to The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch.

The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch Developer Tom Blake said they hope to begin grading for their 24-acre mixed use residential and retail village center on the site at Carmel Valley Road and Village Center Loop Road by December of this year.

“We’re very excited about this project and very proud of it,” said Blake, noting city staff has been very receptive of their plan and sees it as a model for other mixed use projects down the line.

The announcement on the center’s first tenant was made at the Sept. 26 Carmel Valley Community Planning Board meeting, where the board approved amended plans for the village — the board previously approved the project in January.

The amendments were mostly “small refinements” to the commercial/retail element, Blake said, such as changing the color scheme from various colors to white and cream buildings in the Santa Barbara-style, and creating an identity for Pacific Highlands Ranch with an arched sign that would span the entry of the project, at its height about 20 feet tall.

“I think it will be stunning,” board member Nancy Novak said of the new color scheme and materials.

The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch site, which is located across from Canyon Crest Academy, will feature 155,000 square feet of retail with a mix of shops and restaurants, a unique plaza gathering space, wide pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and 331 residential units.

“We have tremendous interest from national and local tenants,” Blake said, noting many of them are restaurants.

Blake said they are in discussions with a drug store, which would be located next to the Trader Joe’s, and Blake hopes that, together, the uses would fulfill the community’s need for a grocery store element, a sticking point in previous discussions about the project.

There will also be a large green area that will have a bocce ball court, a tot lot, a terraced lawn with seating walls and a dog park. The city also has an option to purchase part of the property planned for a future library.

Planning board member Victor Manoushakian, as well as PHR resident Karen Dubey, still had some questions about the green space and whether there is enough there to activate use of the space. Dubey said she didn’t want it to become a “lost area” and requested that some seating and tables be added.

The project hopes to go to the planning commission for approval by the end of October. Construction could begin in the first quarter of 2014.

“I’m very excited about the project and I’m certainly excited about Trader Joe’s,” said PHR resident Jon Ludwig. “Anytime we can have something we can walk to that we would normally drive to, I’m all for it.”

A Trader Joe’s was once in the plans for the proposed One Paseo project. At this time it is no longer a guaranteed anchor tenant for that project.